Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Gift of Five

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. In Lesotho, such a momentous occasion calls for cows. In Sesotho, likhomo (dee-KHOH-moh). Now, as it turns out, Peace Corps affects lives in the long as well as the short term. As evidence of this, I offer the experience of Lesotho's Minister of Natural Resources, Monyane Moleleki. Taught by a Peace Corps volunteer in 1969, Minister Moleleki remains a staunch supporter and good friend of the Peace Corps in Lesotho. So, to honor Peace Corps' 50th Anniversary, he offered them the gift of cows - a gift traditionally reserved for the most important occasions. In fact, he gave five cows to Peace Corps Lesotho - one for every decade of the Peace Corps. In Lesotho, this constitutes a small fortune for most Basotho.

Indeed, this gift was significant enough that it was marked by its own formal ceremony. Prior to receiving the cows, Kathy and I, along with other Peace Corps staff, a couple of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs), and the US Ambassador to Lesotho, Michelle Bond, all met for lunch at the Living Life Cafe in Ladybrand:

After lunch, we met Minister Moleleki at the farm where the cows were living, albeit not for much longer:

We all paused to admire the cows:

And the beautiful farm:

Here, Kathy, Minister Moleleki and Ambassador Bond pause for a photo opp:

Then I get my chance:

As do the PCVs:

And yes, Lesotho Television was there, and the Minister gave a speech:

Then he was interviewed by the reporter, as were the Ambassador and, of course, my beautiful wife:

As it turns out, Minister Moleleki has a deep and abiding love of music, especially classical music. Recently, he opened an orphanage (due to HIV/AIDS there are many orphans in Lesotho) with a special focus on music instruction. So, Kathy thought the occasion of such an important gift from the Minister was just the right moment to present him with a gift, as well. In this case, it was a violin from a PCV who wanted it to go to the Minister's orphanage (a few other instruments were also presented to him).

Here is 'M'e Jimi (who works at Peace Corps Lesotho and is helping me learn to negotiate the public transit system here and who is also just super cool and incredibly nice) with the Minister and the Ambassador:

After the giving of gifts, Minister Moleleki suggested we all go for drinks. Given that we were on a farm in the middle of rural nowhere, this seemed a challenging suggestion, though certainly in keeping with the Minster's personality. To our surprise, a relatively short drive found us at a local private game reserve called Zuikerkop:

Here, we all relaxed on the veranda, while the somewhat stressed out staff, who had not been expecting us, provided us first with drinks, and then ultimately a full meal.

One of the highlights of the meal for me was sitting next to, and chatting with, Sam Matekane, one of the wealthiest people in Lesotho. Now CEO of a large corporate conglomerate involved in farming, mining and other endeavors, and reportedly owner of a private jet and his own helicopter, he is a very down-to-earth gentleman. I quite enjoyed talking with him about Kathy's and my recent experience with the two flat tyres and how impressed I had been by the help we received, and learning in return how he had gotten his start as a youth selling donkeys. Really.

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